Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Simple Words for Simple Actions

As writers, sometimes we get caught up in the idea that we need to describe everything that our characters are doing down to the tiniest detail. We want our readers to be able to "see" the action, but we forget that our readers are already familiar with the actions we're describing.

For instance:

Tammy climbed into the shower stall and checked to make sure the water was just how she liked it by holding her hand in the stream. Then she reached for the shampoo bottle, squirted some in the palm of her hand, and worked up a good lather. She rinsed carefully, then followed with conditioner. After that, she used body wash.

vs.

Tammy took a hot shower to clear her mind and was ready to call Tom and give him her answer by the time she toweled off.

This is, of course, an exaggerated example (mine generally are). But the point is this - your reader knows what goes into taking a shower. They don't need to have each step explained. Unless there's something unusual about this shower - maybe she reaches for the conditioner and there's a black widow on the bottle and it kills her dead - we don't need so many details. Just get to the point you're trying to make.

Remember - simple words for simple actions.

She can drive down the street without us seeing her put the key in the ignition and turn it.
She can make a phone call without punching buttons.
She can order her meal without reading all the menu options.

The reader will know that each of these things happened, and you can save precious page space by skipping over them.

Now, one warning about this - don't show her standing up unless we knew she was sitting down. That's one thing that will throw a reader off - physical positioning of the character. So use a little judgment, but see where you can cut the fat in your manuscript by deleting the things that the reader will know automatically. This will pick up the pace of your story and keep the reader more engaged.

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